Posted by: Craig Woolheater on April 27th, 2007
The fish found off Sydney’s coast. Picture: Rob Harcourt
SCIENTISTS are still trying to decide how best to describe the mystery fish found off Sydney’s coast, but pretty isn’t a word that’s likely to be used.
“It’s a striking-looking fish … hideously ugly would be a fair description,” said Rob Harcourt, researcher at the Sydney Harbour Institute of Marine Studies.
The fish, found off Bare Island at La Perouse, appears to be from a new genus.
Dr Harcourt said the fish was originally seen by divers. He later dived in the same spot and found the creature, an anglerfish.
“They asked me what it was and I couldn’t identify it so we sent photos to the Australian Museum, but they couldn’t identify it,” Dr Harcourt said.
Photos and a specimen have been sent to international fish expert Ted Pietsch at the University of Washington in the US.
“He (Pietsch) said it’s not a new species, it’s probably a new genus,” Dr Harcourt said.
“We were extraordinarily excited when we got the email back.”
Genus is one higher than species on the classification table for naming organisms.
Using a whole specimen, Professor Pietsch is presently describing the fish for science, as its differences from other anglerfish are unknown.
“There is nothing known about its breeding or other habits; it’s a totally blank page,” Dr Harcourt said.
The fish was found in October 2005.
The anglerfish can fit in the palm of a man’s hand. It is grey-brown and sits on the sea floor, where it waits for prey.
A spine protruding from its head has a small orange lure dangling from the end. When smaller fish are fooled into thinking it is food and come close, the anglerfish darts forward and swallows them.
“It’s a sit-and-wait predator,” Dr Harcourt said.Brendan O’Keefe